Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Riverwalk, where Lynn and I currently have a hole in the ground that will Someday be a house, is an interesting dichotomy of a place.

It started out life as so many places around Gunnison do, in that it was ranchland. Well, let’s be technical and note that everything around here was once the purview of dinosaurs and then, much later, summering Utes, and only much later than that, ranchland. Then it became a trailer park that never endeared itself to anyone as to its scenic aspects.

Then new owners decided they wanted to develop it into a subdivision, and right there is where the bifurcation really started. According to the covenants, it appears that the intent was to make this quite the upscale place, with minimum house sizes specified (with our garage, we will just meet the minimum), and definite preferences stated for house exteriors. There are private roads and private ponds and private walking trails — and then . . .

And then the developers seemed to realize they could save themselves a huge boatload of costs if they provided public access. So to the north, where a fishing easement had already been awarded to the federal government by a previous owner, provision was made for a foot trail. And to the south a route was specified for a multi-modal trail, presumably like the trail system now in place on the Van Tuyl Ranch, owned by the City of Gunnison. In fact, but for 300 feet (maybe it’s yards) of private land that owners so far have no interest in offering easements on, these undeveloped Riverwalk trails would connect to this very popular and well-used trail system.

And: two giant lots within the development were deeded to a local church. I’m not clear if the intent was to relocate the church from the city limits to Riverwalk, or if maybe it was going to be a church park for gatherings and weddings, but that had the potential to bring many, many people into this “private” subdivision. (Those lots were recently sold to one of the landowners with the trail-blocking land.)

The original vision, whatever it may have been, was fairly well lost when the Great Recession came along and bankrupted the Riverwalk development. From 2005 to 2016 a grand total of six houses went up on 40-ish lots (some people count 42; some count 45; the church lot or lots help confuse the issue).

At the end of 2016 a family trust out of Oklahoma bought up all the lots that had never sold, roughly half the total. And here’s where we get to a new dichotomy: their real estate office, in Crested Butte, has heavily marketed this as a sportsperson’s paradise, presumably to the second-home market. But so far, everyone building or buying a house there either works in Gunnison or has kids who do.

And when we make the move to our new neighborhood, some of it just won’t be so different. Currently, we live next door to where one of our new Riverwalk neighbors grew up (her older sister and my younger sister were fast friends in grade school), and across the street here on Irwin is a young family; his parents own the house that’s in the framing stage out at Riverwalk.

I served on a non-profit board with another “new” neighbor, and yet another was our family accountant for many years. I’ve known another “new” neighbor ever since she worked at the health food store on Main Street decades ago; the other new construction belongs to the parents of people who work in the doctors’ office we use.

What is it that Peter Allen said? “Everything old is new again.” At any rate, we hopefully won’t feel too out of place in our private-public subdivision currently being marketed to second homeowners but lived in by People of Gunnison.

Postscript: I’m finding, as I exercise extremely rusty writing muscles, that endings are hard. They used to be easy.  So today I will end with: Marrakesh wants out and Na Ki’o needs insulin. Gotta go.

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